On Feb. 16, David C. Baluarte, associate clinical professor and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Washington Lee University School of Law, addressed a host of colleagues and students with his presentation “Citizens of Nowhere: The Case for Embracing the Stateless.” The focus of the professor’s speech was the condition of U.S. immigrants without legal identities in any country and the divided opinions of liberal and ethnonationalist Americans over their right to citizenship.
“Changing Faces of U.S. Citizenship” is the title of this year’s installation of UCSB’s annual series “Critical Issues in America.” The 2018 program, which the College of Letters and Science organized, centers on the active controversy surrounding undocumented immigration. According to The Current, the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor, Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Equity, and Academic Senate co-sponsored the program.
For the first event, located in the Miller McCune Conference Room, the department invited Baluarte to speak on the dimension of immigration involving the “stateless.” Beth DePalma Digeser, a history professor and the co-organizer of the series, introduced Baluarte and cited the lively debate following President Donald Trump’s previous suggestions to repeal the Fourteenth Amendment, which secures birthright citizenship, in the cases of American children born to undocumented immigrants.
“The pathway to citizenship for a global population of 10 million people remains uncertain,” DePalma Digeser said. She then called upon the audience to work towards resolving the distress of the stateless by attending more seminars like “Citizens of Nowhere.”
“The hope is to spur positive change through the expression of informed opinions,” she said.
As a part of the subsequent political discourse, Baluarte challenged the controversy and denounced the assault on birthright citizenship and requested protection for the stateless. In his arguments, the professor stressed the legal obligation of a country to recognize and protect its people, and he insisted that “the virtue of existence is what grants people the right to rights.” He condemned the ideology which “credits the state as fundamental to sovereignty” and asserted that no institution should have the power to deprive a person of their nationality.
“I believe expatriation is, as, Chief [Justice Earl] Warren stated, ‘more primitive than torture’,” Baluarte said.
After the presentation, Ben V. Olguín, professor of English; Paul Spickard, professor of history; Diana Valdivía, Undocumented Student Services coordinator; and Kalina Yamboliev, Ph.D candidate in history, responded to Baluarte and agreed with his defenses. Attendees of the open forum included professors such as Mario T. Garcia of the Chicano/a Studies Department. The audience guided the discussion towards the racialization of citizenship and its effects on Chicano students, specifically DACA’s Dreamers. Baluarte answered with empathy towards Dreamers and described their narrative as one which displaces and criminalizes children.
Baluarte parted after reiterating what he referred to as the “universal” right to a national identity. He urged the crowd to continue assessing political movements with the hope that maintaining informed opinions will create positive change.
The College of Letters and Sciences will continue the series later this quarter by hosting a screening of “14: Dred Scott, Wong Kim & Vanessa Lopez,” a documentary about the Fourteenth Amendment created by UCSB alumna Anne Galisky, along with a conference on studying the humanities in prisons. Future lectures in the series, featuring professors from Brown, Cambridge, and Princeton Universities, are expected to continue into fall quarter.